Educational Uses of Crypto Corner
Cryptography is an area of interest to many students, and provides unique opportunites for cross curricular studies in schools. The two main subjects that can tap into the wealth of engaging materials on this topic are Mathematics and History.
It is a subject I have used, and have seen used by others, to great effect in the mathematics classroom. There are large amounts of resources that can be used to introduce and study Cryptography. These include murder mysteries and treasure hunts.
One way to approach Cryptography would be to make it a project in class. Get students to work in groups and research one cipher per group. They must present their findings to the rest of the class, and demonstrate a good understanding of the mechanics of the cipher (they can use the Crypto Corner Flash activities to practice encrypting and decrypting messages).
Another approach is to use one of the Crypto Corner Flash activities on the board, and ask them to try to figure out how it works. Doing this you can start by not revealing the ciphertext alphabets, and using these as a hint if needed.
Although Cryptography is an ideal one off topic, it is also something that is perfect for use in Maths clubs or as an ongoing extension for those more able.
There are two excellent yearly competitions for school-aged pupils all about cryptography and codebreaking. The first is The Cipher Challenge run by the University of Southampton. This has been running for many years now, and is well established internationally. The second is the Alan Turing Cryptography Competition run by the University of Manchester, which is in its second year, but attracting huge attention.
Both these competitions have cash/voucher prizes to be won, and are very well run and thought out. There are several rounds to them, each getting a little bit more difficult. If you have some students that do develop an interest in cryptography, then I certainly recommend you steer them towards these.
There is an excellent 6 part Cryptography Challenge on nrich, where clues give you access to the next code via a url.
A particularly well put together blog post about using Cryptography in the classroom is offered by Andrew Chambers on his site.
Finally, if you have any exciting ways to use Cryptography, then please do let me know via the Contact Me page, and I would be delighted to share them with the world.